Try harder

Jim Nicholson, the new secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs, got some sobering numbers at a recent leadership conference in St. Michaels, Md.

Human resources personnel told him that women and minorities make up 74 percent of the VA's employees. But of the employees who hold jobs at the higher pay scales — grades 13 to 15 — only 30 percent are women and 26 percent are minorities.

According to our sources, one official, told Nicholson that these numbers were shocking.

And as if that wasn't enough, officials said it takes 175 days to hire a person to fill a clerical job at the VA. Time for a change, we think.

Can you hear me now?

The Federal Communications Commission is considering whether to allow wireless phones and other wireless devices aboard commercial flights. The Homeland Security Department, with the Justice Department and FBI, is reviewing comments supporting the idea.

Some officials like the wireless phones for many reasons, we hear, including aviation security and greater communication with air marshals riding commercial jets. They also like the idea because of the heightened potential for air rage on commercial flights.

Get the message

Shaygan Kheradpir, chief information officer at Verizon Communications, told attendees of the annual Interagency Resources Management Conference in Cambridge, Md., recently that the best way he knew to get fired was to take instant messaging away from Verizon's employees.

We decided to conduct an informal survey of information technology managers attending FCW Events' CIO Summit last week in Hilton Head, S.C., to see if they, too, know how to keep their jobs.

And we found something very different, at least from the brass. It's not so much the demand for instant messaging that keeps feds humming, but handheld computers are part of the feds' modus operandi.

"I would certainly get reactions if I took those kinds of things away," said David Wennergren, CIO at the Department of the Navy.

We also found that people are worried about security. "For a variety of reasons, we don't like messaging popping around," said Dan Mehan, CIO at the Federal Aviation Administration.

At DHS, instant messaging is used as part of the job, not to chat with family and friends. "It is not used in the open," said Lee Holcomb, the department's chief technology officer. "IM is only used in closed communities."

Please let us know if you would cause a revolt if you took instant messaging away from your employees.

The Class of 9/11

The Partnership for Public Service last week issued the survey of the "Class of 9/11" — the first class to have gone through four years of college affected by the events of Sept. 11, 2001.

According to the survey, the graduates need some more time if they are going to be drawn into government service despite the patriotism inspired by the attacks.

The survey, commissioned by the nonprofit partnership and administered to 805 graduating college seniors earlier this month, found that 83 percent of the people describe themselves as patriotic. Forty-three percent of them say that the terrorist attacks made them more patriotic.

But only 20 percent of those surveyed said the attacks made them more interested in government service.

"Our research shows that the patriotism surrounding [Sept. 11] did not give the government a free pass in recruiting talent," said Max Stier, president and chief executive officer of the Partnership for Public Service. "We need a new call to public service, one that balances young people's patriotism with two factors that are just as important to them: pay and prestige."

More than four in 10 graduates — 43 percent — cited pay and benefits as the reasons that would make them most likely to consider a career in government. They expressed concern that the government cannot match the salaries that the private sector offers and does not reward good performance with more pay. Efforts aimed at aligning pay with the market and rewarding high achievers with performance bonuses would help reach these college graduates, the group said.

Get golf

The seventh annual Industry Advisory Council Golf and Tennis Charity Tournament will be held July 18 at the Evergreen Country Club in Haymarket, Va. There will be tips and tricks to improve your game, prizes for the winners and dinner for all.

For more details, contact Doris Reeves, tournament chairwoman, at (703) 245-7419 or [email protected].

Got a tip? Send it to [email protected].

Read it in the blogs

Last week launched Web logs, or blogs. Here are some items you can find — and comment on — in's blogs at

The FCW Insider

  • "Star Wars": Yes, FCW got caught up in the hype. Find a link to the Darth Vader blog and the Darth Vader gargoyle at Washington National Cathedral.
  • The power of Google.
  • Exercise: Who has time?
  • Diamonds are NSF's best friend.

Culture & Context

  • Reality Catches Up With Hype: A look at Internet2.
  • Hurricane forecast: Weather on the horizon?
  • "News" packages: Are agencies producing content?


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